Wednesday, January 21, 2009

"Science" and inaugural addresses

Yesterday, as a bunch of us gathered in an office to watch the Inauguration, after President Obama's line about science ("We will restore science to its rightful place...."), I said that I'd bet that was the only time science had been mentioned in an inaugural address. Well, thanks to this impressive website, I now know that I was quite wrong. The word "science" has appeared 22 times in 15 different inaugural addresses. These uses include John Adams back in 1797 (in one of the biggest run-on sentences I've seen since the last time I read a Virginia Woolf novel) encouraging the founding of universities, FDR worrying about science run amok ("For, without [government aid], we had been unable to create those moral controls over the services of science which are necessary to make science a useful servant instead of a ruthless master of mankind."), and Kennedy wanting to use science to thaw US-Soviet relations ("Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors") and forestall nuclear war ("the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science"). Interesting stuff. By the way, I'll save you the trouble of looking. No president has ever said "physics" in an inaugural address.

4 comments:

Massimo (formerly known as Okham) said...

I am quite sure that no other president ever mentioned "non-believers" in his inaugural address either...

revathi said...

I think it is the govt that make science run amok with their program onf WMDs

DanM said...

"As the Government lights our coasts for the protection of mariners and the benefit of commerce, so it should give to the tillers of the soil the best lights of practical science and experience." - James Garfield

Now I know what we all should really be working on.

Doug Natelson said...

Dan - Insert joke about Aggies here.